Picture of Chemical and drilling free, card PCBs

Most of us who are into electronics feel the need to produce a PCB for our new project. However, if like me you cant etch at home you're limited to using strip-board. The obvious alternative, getting a prototype PCB made is both expensive and fraught with difficulties. What if you pay your money but find that your layout oscillates or the component(s) you've been using go obsolete, or you've miscalculated the mechanical parts and you cant get it to fit into your case aghhhh!

These are all too common problems that I have encountered several times over the years. The only inexpensive part of the design process is the use of the computer. Recently I decided to buy some strip-board only to find it had been discontinued by my usual supplier. This set me thinking, if I can't roll my own boards or obtain strip-board then I'd have to find another hobby, or find a better way of producing boards. In a previous life I used to design electronic kits for a well known supplier. Unfortunately he didn't like spending money on PCBs . On one kit he insisted that he couldn't afford to sell it unless I did away with the PCB. So in a fit of pique I mounted the parts on a sheet of white card. I got my commission and my client was happy. Since the 1980's, computers have become widely available and PCB design programs are freely available on the net. Eagle springs to mind for example and there are some others. So the question is can you match using a nice cheap material like card and computer graphics to produce a board? The answer is yes!

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Step 1: Wiring

Picture of Wiring

Reverse side of early prototype showing point to point wiring. Please go to next step.

Step 2: Materials required

Picture of Materials required

Card , overlay and track prints, glue stick, scissors hammer, Paper Mache box (from 'Hobbycraft ) and or normal card, see text, push pin and large self tapping screw (not shown)

mario597 months ago


Your way to make pcb's is astonishing simple and straightforward. It has indeed some limitations, just as any other ways. The cardboard structure needed for this idea, has to be tried thoroughly to find the most suitable for this application.

Honestly This is a point I haven't fully understood in your writing, anyway....

I'm almost a "veteran" in electronics and I came to a point where I make everything I need, using standard experimental breadboards, in FR3 material. Like the one in the enclosed image. But your system has something more: the possibility to add a *very good* silkscreen, using simple instruments like a pc and a drawing program!

The possibility to use a pin to make all the holes needed, is really a exceptionally clever point, and is always underestimated in making pcb's: the holes needed for a pot, for a cap, a power resistor, and any other strange device you can add in your pcb, are always source of under-refinement of the finished product.

Not talking for mm spaced pins vs the mils-spaced ones!!! You simply cannot use a board like the one I use, when you face such strange pinout steps!!! :-P

A suggestion:
If I could "add" something to your clever system, is that you, just as you did with the components placing on top (the silkscreen) you could also glue (*) the drawing of the actual tracks you have to connect on the bottom side. This could help not to make errors when you flip upside down the board and possibly get confused by IC pin numbering. Also in both drawings you can add notes on ANYTHING you need to apply.

So congratulations, and just as mgingerich said: "Why didn't I think of that?"



(*) nowadays one can also use the self adhesive sheets that are widely available for any kind of printers!!!

jefffolly (author)  mario596 months ago

thanks for your kind comments. As for the genesis of the idea. It was simply because I had greif trying the alternative ways of producing pcbs that the creative juices flowed. This method was the result. Sometimes it pays to be frustrated by the conventional solutions!

TheeObskure6 months ago

empty breakfast cereal boxes may be a decent compromise between the thickness of the paper mache boxes and the regular stationer's card.

jefffolly (author) 7 months ago
Normal card is fine for all normal designs and ideal for IC circuits. The paper mâché box is also an excellent material because it is considerably thicker it's difficult to use with ICs bot comes into its own for discrete designs.
The only limitations with normal card i that it may be difficult to mount. I usually employ self adhesive pads. Hop this explains it better
mgingerich7 months ago

This is one of those cool ideas that makes people say "Why didn't I think of that?"

diy_bloke7 months ago

I have seen a paperduino once. great idea

studleylee7 months ago

I like this!!! Some early circuit boards were cloth dipped in resin or beeswax. Be interesting for you to try those. Beeswax can also act like a nontoxic and noncaustic flux as well as a protectant.

What I mentioned above might have been vague: I meant dipping your board in wax(bee is yellowish/tan or canning:clear) vs the cloth.

Jugfet7 months ago

Fender produced an amplifier called the Tremolux, which had a leatheroid type strip with eylets punched into it, and all the components were then soldered to the eylets.

The cardboard circuit board I used to use for prototyping, and a lot more reliable than some breadboards.

nodcah7 months ago

This is a REALLY useful idea! =D I might use this... (credit will be given). More people should know about this!!

seamster7 months ago

Nice work. Thanks for sharing this handy instructable!